Where Next: Medical Marijuana in Guam?

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Medical marijuana is finding its way to the furthest reaches of the United States.

Lawmakers in the U.S. territory of Guam, in the remote western Pacific, have introduced legislation to make medicinal pot legal on the island. A senator, Tina Muna-Barnes, has sponsored the Joaquin Concepcion Compassionate Cannabis Use Act of 2013.

The bill would allow a qualified patient or primary caregiver to possess three months worth of weed to treat a “debilitating medical condition.” That includes cancer, multiple sclerosis, glaucoma, HIV, severe epilepsy, and other diseases. Cultivation would be strictly limited to the island.

FloweringThis is Muna-Barnes’ second bill this fall aimed at reforming cannabis law in Guam. Last month she introduced legislation that would decriminalize weed for medical use. She used that bill to feel out support for MMJ, which appeared to be high.

But the senator’s newest proposal, introduced Oct. 25, hasn’t gone without opposition – or at least concern. The island’s most prominent physicians’ group has complained it wasn’t consulted about the proposal before it was introduced.

In an email to members of the Guam Medical Association, Executive Director Pram Sullivan didn’t take direct issue with medicinal cannabis itself, but with the fact that lawmakers never asked the GMA for input.

“Sen. Muna-Barnes and (co-sponsor) Sen. (Aline) Yamashita . . . introduced the Medical Marijuana Bill WITHOUT the input of the majority of the medical community,” Sullivan wrote. “One would think that a legislation to legalize a psychotropic substance requiring a healthcare provider’s prescription would come before you for input.”

The email also complained the Guam Board of Medical Examiners was not consulted, though it’s not clear why MMJ legislation would require their input.

The email raised specific concerns the GMA has with the medical-pot bill, such as employee drug testing issues, how the territory will regulate cannabis, and what conflicting federal laws – under which weed remains illegal – would mean for medicinal marijuana in Guam. Territories, unlike states, aren’t sovereign, meaning a decision to legalize medical pot on the island could be easily stamped out by the Obama administration.

An area of special concern is the three-month limit, since it contains no definite cap on the amount a patient may possess at any given time.

Even without taking an official position, it looks unlikely Guam’s docs will get on board with medical weed. That doesn’t mean it won’t happen, though. If not by legislation, MMJ could find its way to the island by public initiative, supporters say.

Guam isn’t the only U.S. territory mulling legal weed. Lawmakers in Puerto Rico are considering dueling proposals to legalize marijuana or make it available as medication.

 

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